Ebere Wabara

When some parents who went through the tutelage of journalism declare that their children will not take after them in terms of occupational engagement on grounds of imaginary poverty associated with the profession, I get bemused by such erroneous effusions.

It is not a profession that matters ultimately—what count most are the diligence, versatility and commitment we bring to bear on any particular field of endeavour. All callings have their peculiarities, challenges, good and bad sides, particularly the inevitability of professional hazards.

So, for anyone to make sweeping statements or pub generalizations about perceived indigence of journalism amounts to a disservice to human existentialism vis-à-vis career choices we make and the envisaged prospects. There are people who work in “preferred” professions/organizations who end up not doing well.

Most times, the business of communication is always a stepping stone that opens doors to other vocations, employment and contact establishment. The journalism profession itself may not be well paying as other callings, but the exposure it affords those who assiduously subscribe to it is unimaginably beyond measure. This is quite unique because other professions do not have such multifarious empowerment capacities and diverse potentialities.

Today, I know of former editors, current reporters, business editors, title editors, et al, who are as rich as managing directors of banks! I say this with all sense of responsibility informed by knowledge. It is not the profession per se that determines our wealth profile, but the dexterity, passion and entrepreneurship we deploy in our professionalism trajectory.

In every profession, there will always be ne’er-do-wells. Journalism, unlike other callings, is merely a catalytic platform for the expression of our innate abilities and actualization of our robust dreams and lofty ideas—it is not a ready-made access to riches unlike most other professions.

Just like in all callings, everyone cannot prosper at the same frequency in journalism. The difference is the hard work and skill deployment we stamp on the business. It is no longer for the dregs of the society.

If you ask Aremo Osoba, he will tell you that some of his contemporaries died in penury while a few alive live a life of misery: it has nothing to do with the profession basically. Otherwise, why do other journalists and writers swim in modest wealth?

Even in my time, there are some of my professional colleagues and mates who are still floundering and beggarly without any compass whatsoever! You see some in the streets or at events and they look like wrecks! For those of us on the other side, we should be thankful to God for His mercies, above all, not necessarily our efforts exclusively.

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I have the conviction that Aremo Olusegun Osoba would not have been what he is today if he had not taken to journalism. I stand to be corrected. His becoming the unblemished governor of Ogun State from 1999 to 2003 was essentially a function of his distinction in journalism from his reportorial days to the editorship and headship of the old Daily Times in its heyday as the magisterial managing director. He had never been a moneybags and has not had any known political godfather. This very senior colleague of mine is 99 per cent self made without any predilection for obscene acquisition of wealth unlike his governorship peers.

There are grouses about how Aremo Osoba supersonically rose to become the editor of Daily Times in very controversial administrative circumstances, arguable betrayal and how one of the doyens of Nigerian journalism and forebears of the media behemoth gloriously known as Daily Times—before the currency of managerial charlatanism—the late Babatunde Jose allegedly “favoured and overpampered” him in preference to his contemporaries and senior colleagues, particularly Chief Areoye Oyebola. This would be the subject of another intervention in the future.

For me, it is a thing of personal joy that The Sun Management has decided to confer on our life chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) with “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Possibly unknown to colleagues of mine in The Sun is the fact that Aremo Osoba is a humanist par excellence and a quiet philanthropist who appreciates quintessence and esprit de corp.

When I presented my second book entitled “Wordsworth and Essays” at the Airport Hotel in Ikeja, in 2003, I invited Aremo Osoba who was Ogun State governor then to the event. He could not come due to the exigencies of his office, but sent a high-powered delegation led by a commissioner. No amount was announced during the launch as I was told to come to Abeokuta the following week for a “token” from His Excellency. When I got to Government House, the ministry “boys” duly informed me of the “procedure” and subsequently deducted their own share of the stupendous largesse at source and gave me the balance in cash! Despite the “editing” of the executive gift, the money was still substantial.

Years later, Aremo invited me to his Ikoyi home. When I got to the aristocratic complex, I was ushered in to one of the sitting-rooms downstairs. Shortly thereafter, this editor of editors came out briskly and we exchanged first-time pleasantries. He told me he liked what I wrote about someone else shortly before he invited me. The meeting was brief and as I got up to go he handed over to me a bundle of crisp notes the value of which I will not disclose here!

Then in 2015, I presented my third book, “Media Gaffes and Essays”, at the NIIA on Victoria Island. Because of the precedent postponements, the final date of the launch coincided with the day Aremo Osoba was travelling to London. He called me a day before the presentation and informed me that he would not be able to attend because of his scheduled trip. Consequently, he asked for my bank account details and moments later, an alert came in showing humongous credit!

Aremo Osoba is possibly the only person among other eminent members of his political class who has my GSM number stored in his phonebook. It confirms his humility and regard for relationships notwithstanding the gulf between us in all spheres of life.

Egbon, I take off my hat to you in appreciation of your celebrated professionalism, credibility, compassion and associational camaraderie especially as it concerns the media. May God continue to navigate your essence and grant you more years in goodness of health and soundness of mind because you are a good man.

The most interesting aspect of my relationship with Aremo Osoba is that he may probably not recognize me when we meet except I introduce myself.

As you receive your award later this month, it is my prayer that God will continue to direct your footsteps and make your enemies your footstool and your political associates to be at peace with you always. And so shall it be for “this reporter for life.”